A healthy lineup of acts capable of drawing large audiences, slightly higher ticket prices and a pair of stadium tours contributed to make 1997 the concert industry’s second-best year in its history. The industry closed the year with a $1.3 billion gross for all tours, a tally that almost bested the $1.4 billion record set in 1994.
The healthy finish also defied the widely held perception among insiders during the year that 1997 was going to be a mostly lackluster season with only pockets of success.
“There was a good cross-section of artists on the road this year, and the industry didn’t rely heavily on the classic rock act like it has in the past,” Larry Vallon, senior veep of Universal Concerts, told Daily Variety. “It was also the year of the individual act and not the festival — though the Lilith Fair was a huge success.”
And it was a year during which the concert industry was further consolidated under the aegis of a handful of well-financed congloms.
SFX Entertainment acquired three of the industry’s top promoters, including venerable Bill Graham Presents, while potent Avalon Attractions, a dominating indie, became more closely aligned with its owner TBA.
At the top of the roadshow list were the Rolling Stones, whose North American run grossed an impressive $89.3 million over 26 stops and 33 performances, according to tallies released Tuesday by concert industry trade magazine Pollstar, which tracks the top roadshows.
The band’s take is especially impressive considering it didn’t enter the touring sweepstakes until the fall, although the band did pack stadiums and ticket prices were at a premium.
U2 No. 2
Irish rock band U2 checked in at No. 2 with a gross of $79.9 million for its 37-city, 46-show outing. Although it nabbed second place, U2 actually sold more ducats than the Stones: 1.7 million for U2 compared with 1.5 million for the Stones.
The U2 tour, which endured a large-scale drubbing by the media, which characterized it as largely a bust, proved to be a significant winner and will likely earn the band a payday north of $45 million.
It was also the year of Michael Cohl and TNA, who promoted both the Stones and U2 roadshows, and whose typical 12.5% share of the take will earn the impresario and his company more than $12 million from each band for his efforts.
The reunion tour of Fleetwood Mac earned a $36.3 million gross over its 40-city, 44-show route and seemingly proved that even a $125 ticket price didn’t dissuade fans from going to see the shows in large numbers. All of the band’s stops were SRO.
Many price increases
“The industry expressed concern over rising talent and ticket prices, and this year we saw more increases in ticket prices than in the past,” Gary Bonjiovanni, editor of Pollstar, told Daily Variety. “But the marquee acts, such as Fleetwood Mac, clearly did not have a problem selling tickets.”
Metallica, which also hit the boards in 1996 to a less-than-stellar reception as part of the Lollapalooza tour, proved it could be more successful as a headliner.
The band, whose fan base is among the most ravenous in the music industry, as witnessed by the band’s multiplatinum album sales based largely on word of mouth, earned $34.1 million with its 65-city, 77-show outing. The hard rockers nabbed the No. 4 spot.
Country music fans paid consistent homage to three of the industry’s biggest acts, with the double bill of Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire besting country phenom Garth Brooks. The tours nabbed the Nos. 5 and 6 berths, respectively, though the solo singer performed one-third more shows.
The double bill earned $33.5 million with its 66-city, 69-perf tour, compared with Brooks’ $25 million take for his 27-city, 104-perf outing.
But Brooks ranked third in overall ticket sales for the industry by logging 1.3 million ducats — at $18 each.Tina Turner earned the industry’s pleasant-surprise honor as the singer’s tour was a strong success, according to industry observers. It grossed $24.8 million.
Turner’s 1994 roadshow did spotty business, but the 1997 tour boasted sellouts throughout its 56-city, 70-show run. The Hanes TV commercials (the company also sponsored the tour) and her appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” are being credited as helping to boost ticket sales.
Prince, who rarely tours and when he does usually only offers a handful of shows, logged $24.6 million for his unusually lengthy 71-city, 73-show tour.
The Artist, as he now prefers to be dubbed, did more shows than usual and could have logged widespread sellouts, industry observers said, had he not decided to announce on-sale dates less than 10 days out from the performance.
Perennial road warrior Jimmy Buffett nabbed the list’s No. 9 post, with a $24.4 million gross for his 31-city, 44- performance tour. Buffett typically had an average per-night gross of north of $775,000, among the industry’s healthiest.
Rounding out the top 10 was Aerosmith. The band’s 60-city, 63- show tour grossed $22.3 million.
Lilith a slam dunk
Other notable outings included the Lilith Fair, which nabbed the list’s No. 16 spot with its $16.4 million gross, while Phish pulled in $17.6 million.
The Lilith tour, which boasted Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple during its 36-city, 38-show tour, was widely considered a slam dunk by promoters and reversed decades of conventional concert industry wisdom that suggested an all-female bill would fail.
Phish’s mostly sold-out 34-city, 45-performance tour demonstrated the band has filled the void created by the absence of the Grateful Dead on the yearly circuit.